Impending reshuffle causes kerfuffle over 'token women'

Aid minister Alan Duncan has urged Cameron to avoid promoting women simply to address the gender imbalance

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2013
David Cameron has been warned he must avoid promoting women at the expense of more talented men, by one of his senior ministers. Aid minister and first openly gay Tory MP Alan Duncan has expressed fear the prime minister will bump a number of women up in ‘tokenistic’ gestures to bring some gender equilibrium to his cabinet.

The PM is expected to carry out a reshuffle in the autumn and a number of female Conservatives are thought to be in line for departmental roles. Amber Rudd, Nicky Morgan and Karen Bradley are a number of the names in the ring.

This anticipated boost of x chromosomes in the cabinet has caused some anxiety among some male Tories, who feel they might be disregarded for the wrong reasons.

Aid minister Alan Duncan has deemed it necessary to jump to their defence.

‘I never wanted to be a token gay and now things have progressed so there is no need for it,’ said Duncan.

‘Nobody should want to be a token woman; it should all be based on merit.’

Er, stating the obvious much there, Alan? MT guesses none of the women in line for departmental roles want to be there, if not for sheer merit.

It’s a pertinent subject this week, given the EU’s quiet introduction of a boardroom quota for banks.

Duncan did proceed to big up his female boss Justine Greening though; pointing out progression can be down to talent alone.

‘When I look around DfID [Department for International Development]... there’s enormous scope for women and no bar to their success…There are moments when I think they run the place.

‘She’s [Greening] thrown herself into it and earned respect very quickly, is absolutely on top of things.’

Last year's reshuffle was surrounded by controversy when Cameron demoted three women from the cabinet and only appointed two – leading to accusations women were ‘ignored’. Now it appears the PM is damned if he does and damned is he doesn’t.

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